Sometimes, when Tilda Swinton naps, she does it in a glass box at a museum and hundreds of people come watch her and analyze it, and it’s art. That’s what she did at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 1995 and at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on Monday—and will continue to do on six more unannounced dates throughout the year. All MoMA was allowed to say about the performance piece, called The Maybe, is that there is “no published schedule for its appearance, no artist’s statement released, no museum statement beyond this brief context, no public profile or image issued. Those who find it chance upon it for themselves, live and in real-shared-time: now we see it, now we don’t.” Which, if you think about it, is magical and cryptic and totally a Tilda Swinton-y thing to do. The Oscar-winning actress, with ageless, David Bowie–good looks and a penchant for art-house films and avant-garde red-carpet looks, has an “aura” that’s tough to put into words. New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz described it as “fabulously complex, sexual, asexual, mysterious, powerful, impish.” But the Twitter account @NotTildaSwinton perhaps phrased the actress’s je ne sais quoi best in its final imagined musing from the otherworldly actress: “I'm still waiting for my gills to seal up for my journey home; I thank you for your patience.”
Facts about Tilda Swinton can seem like tall tales sometimes—did you know her family lineage traces back all the way to the ninth century?—but we adore her kookiness. See if you can guess the real Swinton fact:
A: As a child, Tilda Swinton once plotted to kill her youngest brother because he was a boy.
B: As a child, Tilda Swinton once plotted to cut off an extraneous part of her left earlobe because she felt it made her asymmetrical.
A: Tilda Swinton once stopped speaking for five years, she thinks.
B: Tilda Swinton once ate nothing but popcorn shrimp for five years, she thinks.
A: Tilda Swinton’s favorite movies include Bruno and School of Rock.
B: Tilda Swinton’s favorite movies include 49th Parallel and Diary of a Country Priest.
A: While at Cambridge, Tilda Swinton was a published author of Dadaist poetry.
B: While at Cambridge, Tilda Swinton was a member of the Communist Party.
A: Tilda Swinton was classmates with Hugh Grant.
B: Tilda Swinton was classmates with Princess Diana.
A: Tilda Swinton doesn’t have a publicist because she “doesn’t actually know what they do.”
B: Tilda Swinton doesn’t have a cat because she “doesn’t actually know what they do.”
A: When she was Keira Knightley’s age, Tilda Swinton was “so longing to be 40.”
B: When she was Kate Middleton’s age, Tilda Swinton was “so longing to live on the moon.”
A: Tilda Swinton was originally considered for the role of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
B: Tilda Swinton was originally considered for the role of Bridget in Bridget Jones’s Diary.
A: “If we don’t accept loneliness, then capitalism wins hands-down,” Tilda Swinton once said.
B: “If we don’t accept any common beliefs, we can’t exist in space time,” Tilda Swinton once said.
A: Tilda Swinton called her film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the story of a backwards-aging man who can never live happily ever after with his true love, “the feel-good film of the year.”
B: Tilda Swinton called her film We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which she plays a tortured mother whose child goes on a killing spree, “the feel-good film of the year.”
A: Tilda Swinton would rather not be called an actress. She prefers the term “scientist.”
B: Tilda Swinton would rather not be called an actress. She prefers the terms “poet.”
1. A. She intended to kill her brother, not to achieve greater symmetry. Have you seen Tilda Swinton? She is the definition of symmetry.
2. A. If Tilda Swinton ate anything for five years straight, it would probably be ambrosia.
3. A. Her favorite movies also include Let the Right One In and Au Hasard Balthazar.
4. B. Tilda wrote poetry in college, it just wasn’t Dadaist. But she was definitely a communist.
5. B. She rolled with future royalty at the elite West Heath Girls’ School in Kent.
6. A. Who needs publicists? Not Tilda.
7. A. She longed to be 40 and is now ageless.
8. B. But she would have made a kick-ass Miranda Priestly.
9. A. The “space time” quote comes from Richard Bach. The rest of Tilda’s quote goes, “Because capitalism is all about trying to convince people that you can distract yourself, that you can make it better. And it ain’t true.”
10. B. Tilda Swinton: looking on the bright side! “I call [We Need to Talk About Kevin] the feel-good film of the year,” she told NPR. “Because those who have children come waltzing out of the cinema, going oh, my kid, we thought he was a problem, but he's nothing compared to that one.”
11. A. “Scientist” because she experiments a lot. Naturally.